The Electric Commentary

Monday, March 27, 2006

"The Simpsons" is dead.

Oh, it will still be around for a few more seasons, but Sunday's episode was so colossally unfunny that I hardly see the point.

The Simpsons used to be the greatest show on television, and it is difficult to criticize because it did maintain a high level of quality for a very long time, but it really should end. The Simpsons lost its way when it lost contact with reality. It is tough to rip a cartoon for a lack of reality, but part of what made The Simpsons great was a real family dealing with real issues, in an exaggerated fashion. For the past 10 years or so the show has grown increasingly nonsensical. The characters are no longer a family; they are independent characters. Homer has no job, the kids act like 20-somethings, and Marge is just taking up space. When a "side character" makes an appearance, it now seems forced. In the good old days, situations forced the participation of side characters. Occasionally, it even created them, as with Disco Stu. These days they simply make an appearance.

For a time they were able to combat this problem with self-deprecating humor, but after several years of laughing at yourself, it becomes tiresome to watch. If you have a problem, it is only funny to laugh at it a few times before you fix it.

The Simpsons hasn't fixed it and they will not fix it. They've stooped to mocking reality TV at least 3 times now.

I'm a big Simpsons fan. I own the first 7 seasons on DVD, and I've listened to the commentary on every single episode. About midway though Season 6 the writers suddenly become much more cynical, more political, and more self-indulgent. These are both fine seasons, featuring my all-time favorite episode, but you can't tell that the seeds of failure were planted sometime in season seven, like so many Shelbyvillian turnips.

The Simpsons used to be more than funny. It was clever, insightful, and emotional. It consistently had the best writing on television, and the voicework of Harry Shearer and Hank Azaria was a delight to hear. At this point, it has devolved into one long "Three Stooges" bit.

I used to watch every Sunday, and catch every syndicated episode, every time. At this point, I would rather watch an episode of South Park or Family Guy, without question. If I could travel back in time and tell relate to myself that last sentence circa 1997, I would not have believed it, and may have punched my future self.

It is an old show, and it is not fair to hold it to the same standard as shows that are still in their primes, but this is just sad. It is in full "Jerry Rice as a Raider" mode, and it needs to end.

I think I'll go pop in Season 6 and think of good times past.


  • I'm a fairly infrequent watcher (once a month maybe) so maybe that's why I haven't noticed this falling off.

    I thought that it was hilarious using the manager from "The Office" and developing his domestic life. I've only seen like 6 episodes of the UK version but I love his character. That totally made the show for me.

    Perhaps the fact that he was what made the show for me that proves your point.

    By Anonymous Rashid Muhammad, at 9:18 PM  

  • It was an interesting idea, and I do like Ricky Gervais, but I don't think they executed very well. When I think office, I think jaw-droppingly uncomfortable moments, and it just wasn't there. I think the cartoon medium works against that kind of humor because it doesn't seem as extreme.

    But I also don't have cable, so I've only seen teh office a few times, and it is entirely possible that I just didn't "get it."

    By Blogger PaulNoonan, at 10:19 PM  

  • I thought Sunday's episode was pretty funny. You didn't laugh at Homer's report on CSI Miami?

    By Blogger DannyNoonan, at 8:19 AM  

  • It was OK, I guess. It's just that the subplot was pretty pointless.

    I really dislike how he doesn't go to work anymore.

    By Blogger PaulNoonan, at 11:51 AM  

  • I haven't watched it with any frequency in quite a while. It just got kind of stale. I do agree with what Paul said that it has somewhat lost its relevancy, but I also think some of it comes because the basic gags and variations thereof have been played out so much. I think if the writers took a fresh new look at how families have evolved in the past decade and put a spin on those issues, it might help, but I don't really watch enough anymore to know.

    By Blogger Scott H, at 1:34 PM  

  • As a big fan of The Office (the British version -- I've never seen the American version), I thought Sunday's Simpsons was pretty good. But I generally agree with you that it's not as good a show now as it was 10 years ago.

    But where I really take issue with you is your "Jerry Rice as a Raider" comment. You meant "Jerry Rice as a Seahawk." Check out the stats. Jerry Rice was still really, really good with the Raiders. It wasn't until he went to Seattle that it was clear he didn't have it in him anymore. (But as a Lions fan, I still would have gladly taken him in Detroit over the pathetic crew they had last year.)

    By Blogger MDS, at 4:38 PM  

  • I stand corrected. Seahawk it is.

    By Blogger PaulNoonan, at 5:49 PM  

  • Yeah, South Park and Family Guy are definitely funnier than The Simpsons is now, especially South Park. I'm wondering how well Family Guy is going to hold up over the years because of their nearly absolute dependency on pop culture references.

    The Simpsons not only have done every story they possibly can (therefore, the many "Simpsons go to a foreign country" and "Simpsons take on fairy tales and bible stories" episodes) but they also have lost their architects. Brad Bird is gone. Conan is gone. John Schwartzwelder never seems to write any episodes anymore. Al Jean and Mike Reiss have come and gone and come back again. There's all these "anything goes" writers on staff now--plus, as the commentaries point out a couple of times, they have less time per episode than they did in the good ol' days.

    I had been looking forward to the Ricky Gervais episode for over a year now, and yeah, I was underwhelmed. The show still comes up with something funny every once in awhile, but never with the care. They are much like the "Mad" writers they spoofed in the episode with 'N Sync and the boy band. "Hey, how about, 'Everybody HATES Raymond?' "Well, it took all night but I think it was worth it."

    By Blogger Chris, at 1:25 AM  

  • I couldn't agree with you more, I wonder how no one notices that the series took such a drastic drop in quality since the seasons you mentioned. Of course the writers are different, and everything else, completely different people driving the thing. It really should end now, because I already miss it.

    By Anonymous Martin, at 8:21 PM  

  • I watch the Simpsons every night and i have only noticed a slight falling out, not enough to make a difference to my likeing it though! So with that, i will have to disagree with your blog.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 3:32 PM  

  • the sad thing is, Groening in an interview said something alone the lines of "i don't see an end."
    to quote Seth and Amy: REALLY>>>>>>>>>>?
    now when i tune in to an episode of simpsons and see that its new i just instinctively change the channel; it's just too hard witnessing the death (in progress) of something so dear and close to me.
    And as a die hard Office bbc fan, i have no one to blame but myself for missing that episode. i would've happily made that ONE exception.
    And it's neat because the Office and the Simpsons are such an interesting pair. Both are landmark series that have raised the bar for television but whereas the Office left with heart and dignity the Simpsons just seem to try too hard....or not at all. and honestly, i just don't care anymore.
    i'll never stop loving the simpsons, but Dear God, take a page from the Office and just let it go.

    By Anonymous rest in pee, at 11:08 PM  

  • Agree...and love the Jerry Rice anaolgy!

    By Blogger MontereyMatt, at 3:34 PM  

  • If you would rather watch Family Guy over bad new Simpsons, I feel for your soul.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 5:48 PM  

  • I completely agree with you. I've been buying the DVD boxed sets, and in about season 7 the decline in quality is definitely noticeable. By season 10, the show is just completely dead. Needless to say, I won't be buying any more. I tried to watch a new episode online the other day; it was so incredibly unfunny and void of plot that I turned it off after just 10 minutes. I'm so sick of the low quality cartoons on tv these days. Family Guy, American Dad, The Simpsons - they're all just terrible. Family guy was good for about one season. Then the humor just got old, and the jokes got disgusting. I mean, did I seriously see Brian making out with a human? Is sex with cartoon animals really considered funny and acceptable viewing material on national tv? It's just ridiculous. American Dad was never funny, I can't believe Patrick Stewart ever wasted his time on it. And the Simpsons... the poor Simpsons. Even the movie, which was supposed to employ some of the greatest writers, overall wasn't that great. An indian woman pointing Homer in the right direction WITH HER BOOBS?! Are you kidding me? I'm just surprised that the voice actors are sticking around. At this point, Dan Castellanetta and Hank Azaria are just wasting their talent. I think people are only watching it out of tradition, or maybe in hopes that it'll return to its roots. But it's all in vain. The Simpsons is dead. May the first six seasons rest in peace.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 1:48 AM  

  • I know I am posting a LONG time after the OP, but I would just like to agree with the OP.

    The Simpson's has turned utterly spastic. It's getting really crass and 100% lame.

    I just thought I had to say that I do agree. The Simpson's has been extremely shit from roughly season 12 onwards (more or less). The movie was a pure money spinning wank.

    Seasons 1 to about 9 are my favorites. After that, the writing and the more frequent usage of computers made it complete tripe.

    Sad to say. But true.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 6:16 AM  

  • your article is spot on and I'm in the same situation (though I haven't watched a full new episode in a few years now).

    Similarly, if I jumped into a time machine and told myself 10 years ago that I wouldn't even go to the Simpsons Movie (which I spent much of my youth wishing for), my younger self would have had an existential crisis.

    If any major network was going to play out a once great show until it was another worthless pop-culture sitcom, it was FOX.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 9:50 PM  

  • Season seventeen of the simpsons had some good some what well written and enjoyable episodes such The Italian Bob, My Fair Laddy, The Monkey suit, and Kiss Kiss, Bang Bangalore. There where a few episodes sinking below standards in season seventeen such as Homer simpson, This is your wife, Homer's Paternity Coot which have some very awkward moments. But not to worry
    there are some good episodes that follow that season, Then came along season eighteen like a car crash, jazzy and the pussy cats, moe'n' a lisa', The Treehouse of horror XVII which is even somewhat questionable, the first two parts of the episode are somewhat enjoyable, then the last part turns very stupid, dull, and boring. Episodes like "please homer, don't hammer em" make one want to give up on watching the new sunday episodes. Despite the animation being so well done, they should of really considered taking more time on the plots, and take the writing a little more seriously. Season eighteen can probably be tagged as the worst season in simpsons history. Now season 19 is slowly progressing back in the right direction but at snails pace. "Funeral for a friend" being the best so far in the new season, The guest stars this season are a phenomenal pick, but the execution of them in the episodes are a little bit silly, not all the guest stars, but just the ones on the silly episodes. Season nineteen unlike eighteen is a little bit better, but not even up to par, but will get some where if they try. Season eighteens weak points where lack of well written jokes, fixation on shows like 24. The season had too many unfunny references to 24, it makes the viewer feel as if the writers are no longer coming up with good ideas, and have to resort to episodes dedicated to shows like 24, or other media refrences, which get tiresome and feel like your watching an embarassing sequence of jokes, and makes the viewer sink in along with any hopes that the simsons will ever be revived back from a embarrassing rut. The simpsons none the less have sixteen phenomenal seasons to back it up, season seventeen can be tagged as a
    "acceptable season". A few dull jokes, not there best work, but some what relating to older episodes, or new ideas tried. Only Two or more episodes are badly written. But the whole season eighteen could have seriously not of existed and it wouldn't of mattered , some of the ideas had not been done, but it wouldn't matter though since the episodes where not that funny or enjoyable. Compared to some of the shows being pitched during that year, and some of the shows being pitched now, the simpson's advantage from not being canceled or not enjoyable, is the huge number of good seasons, compared to three seasons being somewhat questionable, with some good written episodes mainly in season seventeen.

    By Anonymous bearking19, at 5:34 PM  

  • Really sorry for this, but really. Simpsons haven't changed THAT much. It's mostly the same jokes and some episodes ARE tiresome. But i must say that the new episodes with hidden +'s are just as good as the old. I got to admit that i have seen EVERY episode. And you should think that i am sick of it now. But i think as with you and many many other fans think of "the good ol days" with the simpsons. Simpsons will NEVER be as fun as it was back then, because they are memories and you always think its twice as good as it really is. For example a video game. You think of that old zelda game, but when you play it again you really find out that it sucks.

    Hope this helped you alittle.

    By Anonymous Cas, at 6:22 PM  

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